For the love of the game: Tigers help me contemplate my baseball mania

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Detroit Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander on the mound at the March 15, 2013 game with the New York Mets at their Port St. Lucie, FL stadium.

End of Tiger Town Tales 2013

Was October 2013 a little tense for you Tiger fans?

For sure, it’ll go down in my memory book as the month of the government shutdown and the shutdown of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

At least the nail biting is over for the time being. The government is back on track for a few more weeks; and the Tigers are off the national radar, after succumbing Oct. 19 to the Boston Red Sox Grand Slam – losing the American League Series Championship 5-2.

I can put away my addiction until next spring. Although I have to admit, it rankles my heart a bit to have to listen to the New York based network news shows heap adulation always on the eastern teams. OK, maybe it’s just my imagination. I’m kind of a newbie when it comes to analyzing sports stuff.

Just saying…

So, Tiger fans…what’s the lesson here?

Whether you’re moping yet, or glad to have the agony over, it’s time to let the Tigers go for the winter. Turn your attention – um, addiction – to other things, like football, basketball, hockey and the holiday season. Oh, yes, and aren’t the winter Olympics coming up? That should tide us over.

Thankfully, we were at a wedding the evening of the Saturday night fateful game in Boston. That helped with the ego deflation, even though everyone at our table – all Tiger fans at heart – thought they just might squeak out with a win. I guess the good thing, the thing we Michiganders should be grateful for, is that innate love for our Tiger Town team. That century-old love endures.

“The Tiger season is over,” lamented one of my Facebook friends, who posts a daily rundown of sports and weather in Michigan. He’s experiencing baseball withdrawal, he says, although there’s plenty of fall and winter sports for him to keep up with. I’ll look forward to springtime, when he’ll keep us abreast of Tiger news and trivia. This’ll include, of course, a whole new team look, with the departure of Jim Leyland as manager.

As for trivia, or interesting things to reflect on regarding Detroit’s beloved team mascot, the tiger, I’ll throw this one out to you. Recently I listened to a web talk about the different aspects of animals. For those curious about the symbolism of tigers as a totem animal, it seems the tiger holds attributes that Detroit Tigers fans share.

The tiger represents passion, adventure and devotion to that passion…perfect, for a dedicated Detroit Tigers’ fan. So cuddle with your stuffed tiger this winter; and dream of springtime, when the voice of the turtle will be heard again in our land.

 Is there an Ides of October? 

As I contemplate again, on Oct. 15,  who was it who said that it doesn’t matter if you’ve won or lost, but how you’ve played the game?

Well, after the third game in the ALCS and two losses to the Boston Red Sox, the sputtering Detroit Tigers inspired me to check it out. So, here’s an interesting link about Great Moments of Sportsmanship and winning and losing.

As for me, I’ve run through the gamut of emotions in these ALCS playoffs, so far; I may have to rethink my Oct. 7 list of reasons to like baseball.

However this Detroit/Boston drama plays out, I imagine I’ll be just as excited to welcome spring with the Ides of March and a new season of loving that game.

For the love of that game (Oct. 12) continues…

from the perspective of  the now American League Central champions, the Detroit Tigers.

Wow. The vision is seldom what it seems, but the rollercoaster ride of the Detroit Tigers takes on an otherworldly quality, now that I look back again to March 15, with Justin Verlander on the mound in Port St. Lucie, Florida at the New York Mets stadium.  That was a long way, baby.

Who knew he’d be on the mound again, facing Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics in game 5 of post season playoffs.  How could anyone predict the amazing turnaround, in another nail-biting game on Oct. 10 that would send the Tigers, with a 3-0 victory catapulting to the battle with Boston on Saturday at Fenway Park.

Here’s what I wrote on October 7, trying to convince myself that getting to the playoffs did not really matter; and that what really matters is enjoying the game of baseball, and appreciating all the reasons listed below.

By the evening of the Oct 10 final game in Oakland, I remained calm —  much more so than expected. Somehow, I turned off the must-win anxiety mode. Instead, the favorite words of a friend rang in my head, “It is what it is.” Naturally, I was ecstatic to witness the final outcome. Now, however, on to another wild ride in the American League Championship Series in Boston.

On October 7, this is the way it was:

This blog is not turning out as I envisioned, back on March 15 while enjoying an afternoon baseball game at the New York Mets winter quarters in Port St. Lucie, FL.

The Detroit Tigers were in town; opening day up north was just a couple of weeks away; Tigers pitching ace Justin Verlander was on the mound; and The Field of Dreams seemed for real.  You could imagine corn fields off yonder beyond the palms. Even in this city stadium, you could almost reach out and touch the players.

March 15 meant spring training was winding down. The vision that day was anticipation of a long hot summer of even hotter Tiger baseball ahead.  October playoffs? They seemed light years away. Somehow we got there. But, looking back on the Oct. 5 night of Game Number Two Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics made me question my love for that game all over again.

I sat, biting my nails, pencil in hand jotting down these thoughts about it.

Why, I wonder am I so addicted to that game?

Talkin’ baseball. Here I am glued to the TV screen. It’s two hours into the second game of post season Detroit Tigers/Oakland Athletics and there’s no score.  My mind tells me this is silly and boring.

Detroit’s pitcher Justin Verlander (JV) makes it through another inning. But so does that 12-year-old Oakland rookie Sonny Gray.

My mind tells me it won’t matter if I stay up or not. I can hear all about it tomorrow. But, my heart makes me stay.

So, I stay put, fidgeting like Verlander. I fidget because the runs aren’t coming. Home runs – out of the park – seem so long ago.

Who will get the scoring run to end this? Will it be us or them? I feel like I’m frozen in time with no score and no score.

So, I wonder again. I talk to the cat. My husband’s gone to bed, so no one else is there to commiserate with me.

“What,” I ask the cat, “is so fascinating about baseball that keeps me mesmerized from opening day to season’s end?

So, as I sit pondering this post season series, I’ve begun a little list.

Why I love baseball.  Why I remain a diehard fan, when my logical mind would declare this a waste of my time. After all, it doesn’t look good for the Tigers, as every time the As get on base I cringe at the thought of a homer out of the park.

Then, all we need is one out and my heart stops. I listen to the roar of the Oakland crowd. I continue to bite my nails and munch my pencil.

Why would a sensible person like me put up with going through all this? Then Verlander makes it through another inning, and I can breathe again during the commercial.

Oh, yes, my list. Well…

Baseball is the only  sport I’ve enjoyed watching,  besides soccer and cycling. Our son played soccer; and I used to religiously follow the Tour de France. My youngest brother played baseball through school and dreamed of being a professional ball player.

Our son played baseball, as well. In my Land that Time Forgot archives is a wonderful Livingston County Press photo from his Little League days, that brings back pleasant memories of attending those games. Maybe, if I find it, I can post it here.

The Detroit Tigers are a Michigan institution – remaining icons for a lifetime. I love all the baseball movies, like Field of Dreams. Baseball has a long and cherished history in America.

So, maybe I think baseball is like life or something. You can say that about any sport; and I’ve no doubt you can find plenty of tee-shirts with those words in some quotation or another. I still have my son’s soccer shirt that bears that sentiment.

Then, there’s spring training. We’ve enjoyed quality time with my husband’s dad at the Met’s stadium in Florida, as well as at the Tiger’s in Lakeland. Baseball is something I have in common with my father-in-law – besides his favorite card game, the notorious Hand and Foot.

Well, it’s the midnight hour. Somebody has to win this game. I try to remember that it IS only a game, as I wonder who will get  on base, who will get thrown out. Moments like these are hard to take, when you’ve followed the long, challenging journey to post season.

Then, I wonder where in the world am I going with all this, now that it’s the bottom of the eighth, and no score, with Drew Smyley pitching and only one out.  Can he do it? Can the Tigers prevail?

Soon we’ll know, and I can go to bed. Again, I ask myself, why would I put up with such “nonsense”?

Or is it? Life is full of nonsense. The true home run is the one we make with ourselves. Maybe I need my baseball fix each year, to remind me about the game of life.

Ernie Harwell.  The famed Detroit Tigers announcer is another  reason I came to love baseball. He started it all, I suppose, as memories float back to me, of listening to his  voice on the radio or watching on TV. He was the voice of summer for all of us in Michigan.

“That ball is long gone!” It echoes through the years. Seasons come and seasons go. Baseball is a game that blossoms with the spring thaw and flowers languidly under the long summer sun.

What was it Ernie always pronounced? That Song of Solomon sentiment: For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Well, sometimes life is slow; sometimes it’s lightning fast; sometimes we have to pitch ourselves out of a jam. And, once in awhile, we’ll hit a home run. We’ll make our mark that shows that life mattered – all for the love of that game.

So the ninth inning comes; and we wonder, have we done all we could to create a memorable game?

Maybe we find ourselves spinning our wheels at the bottom of the ninth with no score.

What? Load the bases? Will it work? I can see the wide-eyed fans are as incredulous as I am. A pitching change, says Manager Jim Leyland.

Maybe baseball is more like life than I think. Well, that is if I were to follow the wisdom of my inner manager, get myself a new game plan, and a new pitcher. I’m not so sure my life strategy would work out much better than this game.

What just happened? A walk off single by Stephen Vogt? My intuition told me this is how it probably would end. So I wasn’t surprised at the one run win by Oakland.

Why, then, did I stay up into the wee hours, only to have my hopes crushed in the ninth inning by the way things are going.

First, of course, I wouldn’t have had the front-row seat for this post season drama. The contrast between the lazy, old time laid back Tigers/Mets game in March with the fast, loud and frenzied Tigers/Athletics game in Oakland couldn’t have been any more opposite.

Then, too, I wouldn’t have decided to contemplate my baseball mania, in order to write this blog. I don’t know the outcome of the series yet. But, it doesn’t matter. World Series or not, I’m addicted to the boys of summer and that long Tiger tradition that goes way back.

Detroit Tigers Baseball Postseason links

 

Tigers advance to ACLS 

 Big-Game Verlander by Gwen Kapp

 Edge-of-your seat Game 1 sets high bar for ALCS

 Tigers miss golden chance to leave Red Sox reeling

Salt and Papi Red Sox storm back late; knot ALCS

 Winning and losing: Great moments of sportsmanship

Verlander’s strong start Oct 15 Game 3 ALCS 

Lights go out at Comerica Park Game 3 ALCS

7 reasons why we’ll miss Jim Leyland

 

About Susan Parcheta 100 Articles
Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.